Posted by: caitlindavis12 | March 11, 2015

There may be a Cost

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/07/30/the-real-cost-of-women-opting-out

The link provided is an article found in U.S. News & World Report that references what we talked about in the last class. What does it mean for women to “opt-out” of the workplace and what implications does that have for those women? The article talked about a woman who left her job in order to start a family and begin to raise her children, but after 7 years she wanted to return to the workplace, but not in the capacity as before. Belkin’s “The Opt Out Revolution” talks about how leaving work to start families is a choice that women are making and that they are “rejecting the workplace.” Reading the article from U.S. News references highly educated women that are in professional roles and this is what Graff warns about in “The Opt Out Myth.” We are only able to see one side of the story because there is only a reference of upper-class, white, highly educated women that are being examined. Graff argues that most women do not have the choice to leave, but instead they are “pushed out” of the workplace. The article from U.S. News also references this view when it discusses how some women do not have the choice to opt out or have to at least work part-time in order to support their families.

With opting out, there is the “cost” that comes from doing so. If a woman leaves her job it may be difficult for her to pick back up where she left off when she returns. The article talks about woman wanting to go back to work, but on their own terms.  Women are finding more satisfaction and feeling more successful when they can set their own hours or work less, such as part-time. Women may find this difficult if the workplace is not flexible. The woman referenced in the article wanted to go back to work because being at home all the time was no longer satisfying. President Obama stressed the importance of a flexible work environment and that it was needed in order to successful raise families. Earlier on in the semester we talked about how women do not occupy the top-level positions in work. Could this be that after starting a family, women are more content and satisfied not working the top management positions? What implications could this have for the workplace, especially those occupied mostly by women? If you could set up a plan for a progressive workplace that offers more flexibility for its employees, what type of plans do you think would be beneficial?

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Responses

  1. I believe that the reason that women are opting out is multifaceted. We talked a lot about these reasons in class, targeting the idea that women opt out versus the idea that women are being pushed out, and are then compensating psychologically to feel as if it was their choice. The hard part about analyzing the reasons for women opting out is that it largely depends on the situation and the individual. This being said, some women may just be more satisfied with different values and different roles after simply experiencing a different role in life. It may be that their experience of raising a family, they have a different perspective and find new and different things more important or valuable than they did before. In terms of the workplace, this has the power to greatly change things, which would be amplified in workplaces that are generally dominated by women. These changes would include large shifts in management, as well as followership, that would occur often with women constantly coming and leaving. It would also take a financial toll on the company to not be able to maintain the same workforce over longer periods of time.
    I believe that offering longer, or more compensation for maternity leave would result in more women coming back to work after having a child, as they would have more time to sort out their arrangements and adjust to a new chapter of their life. Secondly, I think an option for paternity leave, maybe a shorter period than maternity leave, would also help in that it would allow mothers and fathers to both help to transition themselves back into the workplace in a less stressful manner. Hopefully, between these two ideas, it would help to maintain higher numbers of women in the workplace after having children.

  2. In my first interview, I got to speak to a woman who did not have a family with kids and how she was able to navigate the medical world with less obstacles than a woman with a family. She saw that women could not as easily reduce their hours and would even take years off to be with their family. She saw that when these women wanted to return to work they were no longer competitive and had to basically start at the beginning, learning all the new regulations and how to operate new machines. This contributes to the complexity of “opting out” where women are also kept out. These women are not able to achieve high positions because they are not able to get there in time. On top of that, women now have a family and a new set of priorities. A progressive workplace might utilize their valuable workers to continue work with reduced hours, but also require employees to continue to train, maintain certifications, become more specialized, or do research on new technology. This way, women can maintain a career while they are taking time off and can still maintain a healthy, satisfying life. By giving women options to choose and creating opportunities for a flexible schedule, work places would benefit by maintaining employee loyalty as well as progressing in their field.

  3. I think that after women have children, it is not that they no longer desire top management positions, rather it is that their lives are fuller outside of work so all of their ambition is not focused in one place. This is of course conjecture on my part but I think it is a likely situation. Whereas before starting a family, a woman’s ambition can be namely targeted towards her career, after she begins a family she begins to dream about her children’s goals and futures. The top management positions no longer become the priority. As far as workplaces occupied mostly by women, this could imply a more collaborative leadership style than a hierarchical one, which aligns with what women typically lean towards. Many of the articles state that after having children, women not only want flexible schedules but they want meaningful careers. I am not sure if there is a correlation, but these articles seem to assume that after childbirth, women are not focused on their ranking within a business but rather with the meaningful experiences they receive while working. A progressive workplace could have many different programs, such as an on-site daycare center or extended breaks in order for parents to pick up and drop off their children. They could also create a partnership with a daycare center or nanny company so that childcare could be offered at a reduced price.


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